June 14, 2012
Cash-strapped Air India will soon receive the first batch of its long-awaited Boeing 787 aircraft, upon which the national carrier is mainly depending for its expansion plans.
In July, Air India expects to receive three of the 27 aircraft it ordered in 2006. “And in the next few months, we [will] be testing the fuel efficiency of the aircraft before pressing them into service in the international routes,” the official says.
The 787’s induction has been delayed for nearly five years due to production problems, which has affected the profitability of the airline’s international routes, the official says.
The airline has also lost 50 million to 70 million rupees ($1.2 million) during an ongoing pilots strike, which has forced the grounding of the Boeing 777 fleet.
Air India previously conducted about 45 daily international flights, a majority of which operated at a huge loss due to fuel costs.
The 787s promise to be 20% to 30% more fuel efficient, the official says, and Air India hopes the new aircraft can provide substantial savings.
The Air India 787’s first international flight is set for Mumbai-London in August, with flights to Australia following in September.
“Several of the long-haul routes are losing money, as the wrong aircraft type are being deployed on these routes,” the official says.
Meanwhile, Air India is inviting fresh bids to lease five of its 777s that are currently flying its long distance nonstop routes, mainly to the U.S. and U.K. The leased aircraft are expected to be replaced with the more fuel-efficient 787s, the official says. Air India previously held talks with Air Canada about leasing its 777s.